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  CSPAN    U.S. Senate    News/Business.  

    December 4, 2012
    12:00 - 5:00pm EST  

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inconsequential to the fully able-bodied like sidewalk curbs and stairs take on a whole new meaning for veterans like me who struggle to walk or to use a wheelchair. very fortunately for me, the united states leads the world in accessibility and equality of opportunity for our disabled. unfortunately, the advantages we take for granted here at home that allow people like me to live fulfilling, independent lives don't exist in much of the rest of the world. eight short months after being wounded in combat, and while still a patient at walter reed, i joined -- i'm speaking for him -- i joined a few friends in a trip to south africa to watch the world cup. there -- there i found myself in a different country, with no legs, a brand-new wheelchair and a lot of apprehension. and while i should have been enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime trip, i was constantly worried about my ability to get around.
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would the rest rapt have an accessible bathroom or would i have to go without it? would my wheelchair be able to fit in the hotel doorway or would i need to be carried into the lobby? those are the kinds of questions we take for granted here in america, but unfortunately the accessibility measures that we enjoy here simply aren't present in many other countries. that's why bob dole and captain dan pe berzynski want us to appe this treaty. i've heard nothing from the other side that outweighs the reality of that consideration for persons, not just veterans, all persons with disabilities. what's really at stake here is big. the outcome here will not, despite the fear, it's not going to change one election here in the senate. it's not going to decide one of the primaries that i fear are distorting the politics of our
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country. but you know what, mr. president? it will decide whether some people live or die in another country, where there is no accountability and only united states values and standards are the difference to the prospects of someone with a disability. in some countries, children are disposed of, killed because they have a disability. our treaty can actually help prevent that. in some countries, children do not get to go to school and certainly have no prospects of a future simply because they are born with a disability. this treaty will help offer hope where there is none. the united states could actually sit at the table and make the difference for people with disabilities because we're willing to push our values and hold other nations accountable to meet our standards, the gold standard of the americans with disabilities act.
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mr. president, i'd ask just for another three minutes, please. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. kerry: mr. president, i've heard some of my republican colleagues talk many times about making the rest of the world more like america. i hate to think that now, when we have an opportunity to do that, they will retreat from the core conviction and oppose a treaty modeled on the united states example which has no recourse in american courts and no effect on american law. this treaty isn't about american behavior except to the degree that it influences other countries to be more like us. this treaty is about the behavior of other countries and their willingness to raise their treatment of people with disabilities to our level. it's that simple. this treaty isn't about changing america. it's a treaty to change the world to be more like america. so why join? i've heard my colleagues ask
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several times. why, if it doesn't have recourse in the law, why join? i'll tell you why, mr. preside mr. president. because we can sit at the table and affect the lives of our citizens by pushing other countries upwards. because we gain credibility and accelerate change through our advocacy by being part of a process. because it's good for american business, which can sell products and services as other nations raise their standards and need our expertise to meet their goals, which is why, incidentally, the united states chamber of commerce supports this treaty and a huge number of businesses. why support it? because george h.w. bush started this process and president george w. bush signed the treaty to participate in it. and because in the end, this treaty and our participation in it -- and this is the most
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important -- can improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. because to join it is to keep faith with the men and women who have suffered grievous disability in defense of our nation, and we owe them nothing less. this treaty is not about changing america. it's about america changing the world. but a vote here is a test of this institution. this vote is a test of whether the senate, which passed the civil rights act and the voting rights act and the americans with disabilities act, is still capable of voting to change things, let alone send a message that could change the world. i ask colleagues to do for the world what they've done for america -- walk down the aisle here and for millions everywhere who cannot walk make a stateme statement. raise your voice and vote for millions who are voiceless in
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their own lands. stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. this is not about the united nations. this is about common humanity. and this vote is to test whether the senate will stand up for those who cannot see or hear and whether senators can hear the truth and see the facts. please don't let captain brzynski down, please don't let senator bob dole down. most importantly, don't let the senate and the country down. approve this treaty. the presiding officer: the question occurs on the resolution of advice and consent to ratification of the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities. a senator: mr. president? i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call:
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vote:
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vote:
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the presiding officer: on this vote the yeas are 61, the nays are 38, two-thirds of the senators present not having voted in the affirmative, the resolution of ratification is not agreed to. mr. reid: mr. president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: both senator mcconnell and i have approved committees meeting during today's session. i ask consent these requests be agreed to and be printed in the record. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: mr. president, we hope shortly after the caucuses are ended today that we will have a vote on final passage of the
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defense authorization bill. the managers have a few more amendments they are going to try to clear, but i think very quickly after the caucus we'll have a vote. now, very quickly around here is kind of a relative term, as you know, but we hope to do it as soon as we can. i lay that on the table, mr. president. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. reid: mr. president, will you take us out? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the senate previous order, the senate
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we have had these explosions of knowledge in madison, but we have not coordinated care and there's all these services that we have that in that having so many cracks that the cracks are
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as harmful as the diseases that we are treating and you've got to step back and ask, you know, are we hurting people overall on the global level what are we doing sometimes, and of course now we have these reports saying 30% of everything we do may not be necessary in health care? when we step back, 30% of all the medications we prescribed, the tests we order through the procedures. this is something which i think is for the first time really being called out as a problem.
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at 1:00 eastern we are planning to go live to today's white house briefing for white house reaction to the negotiations on what's called the fiscal cliff and the republican counteroffer from yesterday coming january. in the meantime a look at the republican plan with oklahoma republican tom cole from this morning's washington journal. >> host: we want to welcome back to the table congressman tom cole, republican of oklahoma. let's begin with the news. house speaker john boehner sent a proposal to the white house yesterday, counterbid as it is being called. what do you think? >> guest: i think it is a great opening start. actually it makes very tangible with the speaker committed to after the election which is we are going to put it on the table
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so that question is settled and we are not talking about how much and what way, but that is an enormous step forward honestly by the republicans or concessions. not something we want to do but something we recognize we have to do to get there. so i think the speaker's proposal directs us to words what some of the problems are which are entitlement spending. that is what is driving the debt and we can't pussyfoot around it. we can't solve it with just revenue, you have to have reform. while we like the ryan budget and i think i would be the appropriate way to go, they picked up elements of some of the proposals of ernst and bowles and as senator simpson made in an effort to reach awards. so i think the speaker needs to get a lot of credit for effort and opening position on what will hopefully be a productive discussion padilla >> host: does that violate the grover norquist pledge to not raise taxes? >> guest: it's not up to me to decide what violates and what
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doesn't but i don't think so. i think keeping tax rates where they are is the question and you can increase revenue without increasing the tax rate partly by that and a more efficient system. it distributes investments away from the nonproductive loopholes towards things that generate economic growth and that's something that paul ryan has been a leading advocate of. so i think this is a really smart proposal by the speaker, and it was -- i was pleased to see every republican. it wasn't just his name. it was extremely significant. hopefully the white house understands that means a unity of the republican leadership at that table, and if there's unity there i assure you there is in the republican conference. >> host: here's a letter to the white house with of the signatures of the leadership team including paul ryan of the budget committee. a lot of the callers have talked about the lack of detail in the proposal. what loophole deductions do you get rid of an order to bring in more revenue?
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>> guest: again, there's an interesting debate and discussion on that, and that's really for the negotiators. the easiest single way to do it would be simply to cap the dollar amount and let the individual, you know, pick and choose which deductions they want to use. you could also -- and the administration has talked favorably about the figures associated with it -- look at a percentage of a person's income that you could use towards deductions as well. those it seems to me is a lot easier than going through the finite item. you start doing line item by line item there's some of these candidates i think. but, you know, they are going to have their cast of defenders as well. >> host: were you given a copy of this proposal before it was put out? >> guest: no. that's between the leadership and obviously the democrats. i saw at the same time -- >> host: only leadership has seen this proposal. the rank-and-file of the republican caucus hasn't seen it?
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>> guest: they have by now, they were not consulted or brought in in that sense. you can't negotiate with to wondered 40 people in the room. i think we recognize that. but the proposal the speaker put out is very consistent with what most republicans believe. >> host: the republican of the committee had this reaction. the bad news about this proposal is that it is a tax increase and i'm not going to vote for a tax increase because it hurts economic growth. he has a lot of people come a lot of conservative republicans as a part of the study committee, including yourself. so, just does speaker boehner have the votes for his proposal? >> guest: i think the question will be does the president have the votes? because the speaker put some things out in terms of entitlements and democrats are willing and screaming that can't be part of it, yet all of them privately will tell you what's driving the deficit more than any single thing of medicare and medicaid and longer-term social security, so the mere fact that we are discussing those types of things fit. in terms of the votes, look, if it's going to be a deal there
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has to be votes from both sides. the reality is -- and these guys, the president and the speaker dealt with one another before. they've never been able to come to a deal. they came to a huge deal during the lame-duck session in 2010 on extending the bush tax cuts. they came to another deal without shutting down the government in april of 2011 cutting discretionary spending by billions of dollars and they came to another one on the debt ceiling as well which was a 2.2 trillion dollar long-term reduction in exchange for an increase in the debt ceiling. so, you know, the need to take it to another level. this is a more complex problem, and it's the beginning of a series of negotiations between the two. they are going to be together for the next four years. the president won the election, the republicans won the house and frankly are not likely to lose the election in the second term presidency. so john boehner is active to be speaker the next four years hopefully this is the beginning of a productive relationship. >> host: you made some news
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last week -- >> guest: not intentionally. [laughter] >> host: when you said republicans should agree with the president, go ahead and extend the tax cuts for 98% of americans and fight leader on for extending those tax cuts for wealthier americans. given what was put out by speaker boehner yesterday, did that change your position? >> guest: not at all. i think that's the smart thing to do. it's the right thing to do. the two sides agreed that we don't want to raise taxes on 98% of the american people. we should agree to take them out of the line of fire so to speak. i want them to follow the the date. i want them to be engaged in the the date. i think they will come to our side of the date. but if they are worried in the next 30 days their taxes are going to go up, if they don't have a lot of confidence any way, mishandling things, and i think that's what they are going to focus on, and i think it's actually been the democratic point of leverage in the date. so my position would be let's take off the table. that, by the way, complement both of these proposals.
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it's not in contradiction with them. it does what both sides says it can do so it is a sensible way forward and i hope we will do it. >> how many agree with you? >> i have no idea. not trying to do it, they might get this whole idea came out to actually before thanksgiving originally we had a larger discussion with the entire team and they are smart about figuring out what goes on around this town. but they laid it out pretty quick and it becomes a sensation, but its a tactical question here. it's an important tactical question and the right thing to do. >> host: have you speak spoken with speaker boehner? >> guest: i spoke with him yesterday. we have a wonderful relationship. he's been very fair to me.
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he's always open, honest, direct. he likes to say what you see is when you get. that's actually true. and she gives all the people the same privilege you are allowed to see what you think. i have heard all of the dates and the screaming. i still think this is the right way to go and i had the to defend that. >> host: because you haven't changed your mind, there was a tweet but yesterday that says tom cole will sign means it was the's position on the middle-income bush tax cuts his office tells me. >> guest: absolutely not. i may whip. you don't take control away. and there wouldn't be enough signatures to do it any way. i've pointed out when leader pelosi was speaker pelosi i didn't see any democrats signing any cards on the discharge position and never enough to get a bill out in four years. that's not the right way to do it, but i actually think the idea that makes a lot of sense
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it doesn't violate any but the situation. so hopefully at some point the two sides will come together. i think it would make the rest of the negotiations easier. let's start on something we agree with. >> host: if you believe that and some might hear you and say it sounds like you're putting your party and politics ahead. >> guest: i am not. this is a negotiation between two different sides and you can't have a lot of people freelancing. our chief negotiator is the speaker. i have enormous confidence in him. he's come to agreements before. i recognize that. my advice was offered in private. was leaked in the public, so i can say whoever did that for the press i've had in the last week but it doesn't change my responsibility to the conference. and, you know, you also can discredit your idea by undercutting it, and i think right now the discussion of the idea is good. i see more people coming around to it, but i'm not going to allow anybody on the other side
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to have credibility with my own team. it isn't going to work well to persuade them on the direction. >> host: let's get our viewers involved in the conversation. peter in oklahoma, democratic caller, go ahead. >> caller: how are you? see that you're still saying the same things that you did the town hall meeting on the paul ryan budget plan in that ryan budget plan i've read it and it's about eliminating social programs in the country. we all know that back here. my fear is really not been honest with the people. that's what the deal is. i think the fiscal cliff is just a big red herring to get rid of the social programs. i have read this in the constitution. your district has the shortest life span in the country, the
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highest infant mortality rate for children, the highest per capita for people without health insurance, and we follow mississippi. they are ahead of us in that area. i think that is where you are leading the country. if the people of the united states want to see where you and the republican party have taken the country, come and look at your district. >> guest: i would be delighted for people to look at my district. i think it's a great district. 14,000 farms and ranchers to tremendous military installations. you're right next to the field artillery. the colleges and universities, 11 indian tribes and about every ten years or so the best college team in america. it's a special place pitted i would argue with your statistics, but -- i do think i would reflect what people in my district think. i won the election with 68% of the vote and as you were kind enough to point out, i'm saying
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the same things today i was saying in town hall meetings. having said all that, the idea that the ryan program is about getting rid of social programs i think is not so. it's about saving them. they are going bankrupt. medicare, medicaid, social security also is in better footing than the other two are going to have to reform. if the president gets a free tax increase that he's asked for let's assume he did, i am not for him that he has a strong position in this negotiation it wouldn't come close to solving the budgetary problem that we have, particularly if he wants to do it as i know he does come protect 98% of the american people from the tax increase. i think we have to work through these things. republicans have a lot of courage to put the budget on the table. i've heard a lot of talk in this town and i've seen very few people put their fingerprints on something that they know is going to be controversy all. we need to to see the same courage in terms of entitlement spending. now again the speakers moved on revenue.
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he's done something most republicans would have told you before the election they were not willing to do and they never want to do. we've tried to do that in the grand bargain effort in 2011. so, again, i think we are trying to recognize college divided here and come to the best deal we can for the american people. at the end of the day to one to solve the problem you can't do it with taxes you have to do it in the form. >> host: that's the first line from this proposal put out by the speaker's office 800 billion in tax reform. on twitter reforming the tax code could consume a year or two. how do you get that done in two weeks if that is the proposal? >> guest: it depends how fast it can move when there's an agreement among the major partners. remember we are not coming to this discussion with no receding discussions. there's been many, many months. a couple years of negotiations between the administration or the republican majority in the house.
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a lot of what is called scoring the pieces are known and so it is a matter of putting together in some way that number one protect and enhances the security and prosperity of the american people and then number to control the political support that we need to do it. that is a tricky matter and something that the president and the speaker and the negotiating teams worked out during a while they are doing it i would argue let's protect the american people and let the negotiators negotiate where they differ and don't worry about if they are on the same tight. >> host: thomas in granite falls north carolina you are on the air with congressman tom cole. go ahead. >> caller: this question of the rich paying their fair share, the democrats say that 63% of american people voted for that. of course in this freeloading country i was surprised it wasn't high year than that they wanted somebody else to pay their bills.
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and i saw president obama on tv about a month or so before election and he wasn't concerned about the deficit. but i have a question that i have been wondering. does all these people on medicaid that obama put on medicaid, does that come out of a medicare program? >> guest: yes, it does. it certainly does. and one of the reasons actually i like the proposal on medicaid is essentially to block the grant program back to the states this is not a cut in spending but we limit the future increases to population growth and inflation may be in plus one, something like that. we found the state's do exactly what we did with welfare in the 1990's which most people on both sides argue work well. the great thing about the proposal is that it is some new stuff. a lot of it has worked in other contexts. what is new is he had the political courage and skill to put it together in a package that you can pass out.
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>> host: the gop plan is to create a fiscal crisis so it can privatize social six devotee and medicare. >> guest: absolutely not true. what's creating the fiscal crisis is and dealing with medicare and social security right now. our aim is to save those programs and expand them for the future generation. right now everybody is paying into them, paying more honestly than their parents and grandparents did and if we don't make some fixes we are going to get considerably less. medicare goes bankrupt sooner than that. so that is just sit down and deal with these things. it's a math problem. we are not talking about getting rid of the program when you're talking about strengthening them. >> host: you talk about middle class americans extended the tax cuts so they don't get hurt. "the new york times" editorial today on how the gop proposal says raising the medicare eligibility hurts working-class americans unable to work to 67. it's likely to increase health care costs.
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>> guest: with all respect in "the new york times" they are somewhat critical of republicans. they don't see the world the way that we do and that's fair enough. but having said that, look this is a good-faith effort, and the 67 figured that's something the president raised before and talked about in terms of his sight. so let's recognize the demographic reality. we have a lot longer than we used to live. >> host: you're talking abut raising the eligibility age from 65 to 67. that is an idea. >> guest: i probably would. it's in the context with what else we have out there. we've done that with social security. we give people a lot of time it's not like we do it tomorrow with anybody close.
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but again, we change the social security system it's not a surprise to me i want to get a check at 65 the way my dad did but i will be very close to 67i have a lot of time to adjust. these kind of adjustments and programs ought to be done in a bipartisan census just as that change was the ought to be done over a long period of time to protect people. so, again there is a lot to learn here but at the end of the day if you don't make some changes you won't be able to protect them by just raising taxes on the top 2% they would generate enough. >> raising the eligibility age is that all you have to do to fix the problem? there's a lot more that you can and should do. i know it will draw some controversy would i like the program which we do in medicare part b already and it's worked pretty well. premium support which guarantees you coverage in the new budget also medicare as an option that
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you get a better rate and a better set of benefits that puts it in control on health care in some degree. but again there's a variety of things. the president has put out $300 billion plus in medicare cuts and reforms i haven't seen how specific those proposals are but it does suggest she recognizes too there needs to be some changes in the programs. people are just saying no, absolutely no change in medicare or medicaid, no change in social security. i think the negotiators have already passed by on medicare. >> host: robert mix and petersburg virginia, independent call. >> caller: good morning. you know, i don't hear people talking about other ways of raising the revenue and being like the oil companies. i think one of the biggest thing is that is killing the economy
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is something so big you got to say to yourself how come they can't take a little bit less to back up on its seat? >> guest: i am going to disagree with you a little bit. if you look at the percentage of investment, the exploration production of energy is very heavily involved, it is a very expensive item, and their profits are five to 8% on what they actually invest. microsoft and intel are much more profitable and they pay less in taxes than the percentage of the total revenue. so, people always focus on the gas prices. look at your heating bill. the natural gas movement brought down the price of natural gas about 80% of what we produce in terms of my state. it's about a quarter of what it was three years ago. that isn't always a good deal for the american people. it's actually bringing the industry back. this industry which is often vilified quite frankly is the one that is generating more
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jobs, more income, more opportunity than almost any other sector and it isn't as profitable as the high-tech. >> host: nelson in colorado springs. >> caller: i think the bush tax cut -- has anyone tried to calculate the amount of money that the economy lost when the tax cuts were putting place only 2% of the rich but you can't continue to pay the same deals with the same money and also to bring into the soldiers' homes we are paying out money for the contractors and all those other good stuff would bring down the deficit i don't know how much money you are making so you have to vote against your check with a tax increase.
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>> host:? >> guest: you have covered a lot of ground. they certainly haven't deserved one coming and we actually cut congressional budgets in the last few years by a total of 11% so you ask people to make sacrifices you have to make some yourself and under speaker boehner the republicans have done that and they haven't done that in the senate unfortunately also on the pavement we have. in terms of saving money on defense, by the way, we are. the two sides agreed to over $500 billion over a decade of the defense cuts. people say is this funny money, is it real? that's something i'm in favor of. we have 565,000 person army today. it's going to be 490,000 within five years since and 75 soldiers. you are going to have 200,000 of them in five years. we wanted to have an five years
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come to hundred 13 combat med vessels we of 288. so this is a real reduction not just in bringing people home but in the size of the capabilities so the secretary defense as a democrat to tell you in destruction as we can safely go and as the commander-in-chief in a very dangerous world i don't think he wants the military capability lower and i know certainly on our side of the ogle we don't. so we have saved as much there as we possibly can. in terms of, again, some of the other things, after the bush tax cuts came in 2003 and revenue is considerably higher than it was in 2003 and generated a lot of growth and the debt by the way was as recently as 2006 the last republican majority leaving office was $167 billion. our problem is a spending problem. our spending is that we are spending a lot more than we were only two or three or four years ago when the president came into
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office. our problem is we have continued to put off dealing with entitlement problems and demographically we're going to double the number of people on medicare the next 20 years so we should focus first and foremost on where the problems are and it's not on the revenue side of the picture is on the spending and the entitlement side. >> host: we disagree on twittered. he says representative cole if we restore the clinton tax rates today than in ten years, 2022, we have the deficit where it should be. >> guest: he is certainly correct to generate a great deal more revenue. if we did that let's say they made for under $50,000 that is a 2,000-dollar tax increase and again i don't think the president wants to do that. he said he doesn't want to do that our side doesn't want to do that. you know, going back to the clinton tax rate, and remember the average american family has taken a terrific hit. the median household income for
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years ago when the president became the president was around $54,000 a year and is about 50 now. so this portion of the population which is gotten squeezed tremendously i don't think adding an extra tax at the 98 percent is going to, number one, be very helpful to the more helpful to the economic growth. number two it's how much you want the folks to pay? so again, freezing those tax rates with an overwhelming majority of americans is a smart thing to do, we ought to do it and both sides say they want to. >> host: and you said earlier on -- >> guest: it would start the next -- i think, again, we could do what i am talking about in the negotiations under way right now could continue and they should. because again, doing what i'm talking about doesn't violate what either side is fighting over. they both say this is something we want to do. so again, why not make sure that we don't have some last-minute failure at the end.
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>> host: what gave you confidence the democrats would later on agree to extending the tax code for the wealthiest american? >> guest: this is where i agree to the to disagree with fellow americans. they seem they are a leverage in number one we should never use the american people as a leverage and it's the democrats leverage. they talk about if this doesn't get done everyone's taxes are going up. let's solve that problem for 98% of the people. our leverage is spending and entitlement issue. look, the president and his negotiators are very smart and able people and they know that the revenue that they are talking about won't come close to fixing the long-term fiscal solvency. so again, let's take this out and fight, and again, we are not -- the president campaigned on an 800 billion-dollar increase which is magically more often to 1.6 trillion in the last three weeks. we could essentially say, you know, the speaker already put at 800 billion back on the table. we can argue over how to do it at our way, not raising rates,
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is much superior. but at the end of the month visa expired and that is something my side seems to forget. it's not by holding fast doesn't keep the taxes from going up it just makes them go up on everybody. so i think it is a protective measure by the house, the senate and the president, both different parties to actually get something done. and we can do it in pieces. this would be a big piece the would take a big amount of worry of the mind of the american people. >> host: what are the odds we go off the cliff? >> guest: i don't think we will but anytime you wait until the last minute to do something something can go wrong. we got right to the last minute before. what could have been a government shutdown in april of 2011 we got the last minute on the fiscal cleft. you know, i don't think it is a good way to do business. it's the way we seem to be doing business in this town right now. >> host: if we were to go over, what would happen? >> guest: you know, i think probably congress would be back
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in session pretty quickly and hopefully we would do something like i'm talking about right now. and that's why we should do it early. and continuing to negotiate. it's not just a question of dollars and cents. we could let the great love and republicans could get some of them down and collect a tax cut. ..
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>> guest: we're about one really or two big deals away from reignites economic growth in the country. there's a lot of things out there, and i don't care which side of the political divide you're on. we're better off when the economy's growing, and when there's opportunity for americans, and, you know, this is something, if we can make a
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good deal, a smart deal, a wise deal, a cause for compromise on each side, i think, you know, we can actually help the economy showing the political system can function. >> host: how about getting rid of subsidies for farmers, corporations, and big oil? >> guest: if you look at the republican farm bill that's actually was bipartisan support come out, gets rid of direct payments for farmers, and it also asks for reforms on the other side. you know, the food stamp use is up, like, 47% or 48% in two years in the country in the middle of what is supposed ton -- to be a recovery. 41 states had more food stamps this year an the year before, again, when the economy was getting better: there's things on both sides of this. in terms of subsidies for the oil company, it's not like they get a check. they get the same deduction that manufacture manufacturers do, and that's one
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of the things that's encouraged oil production in the united states. you don't goat these -- you don't get those breaks overseas. encouraging production here creating jobs, energy independence is a smart thing. i suspect those things are on the table when you get into discussions about loopholes and whatever, but the big loopholes and the big deductions on home mortgage, no taxes on health insurance and charitable giving, those are the biggest, and how you deal with them will be an interesting debate. >> host: john, georgia, independent caller. john, are you with us? one last time? john? all right. moving on to james in kentucky. republican caller there. go ahead. >> caller: yes, ma'am, i wanted him to let him know why politicians don't get out and see what is going on, all of these people on disability and the young generation sitting on
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the porch smoking a cigarette, and you go there and check, and the guys won't work -- see this segment and at c-span.org. live now to the white house press briefing. here's spokesman jay carney. >> good, we can move through this with great efficiency, and with that in mind, i will not make announcements. i think you have seen the list of governors who participated in the president's meeting earlier today. that was a good solid meeting discussing the fiscal cliff. i think the shared concerns of governors that we address are fiscal challenges in a way that ensures the economy continues to grow and create jobs. with that, i'll take your questions. >> thanks, jay. two questions. in the bloomberg interview, the
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president was asked whether tax rates on the wealthiest americans have to go to the clean ton levels, 39.6% now. is that a red line? he never answered it directly, a process where rates could go down next year as far as tax reform. you talked with fiscal rates need to go up. what he campaigned on was the 39.6 at the end of the year. is that the case? >> so, let me say this, the president has been absolutely clear, as have i, that rates have to go up on top earners, on millionaires and billionaires, those making over $250,000. the president made that clear all yearlong and clear in the post-election period being engaged in conversations with congress about how to deal with the fiscal cliff, and our long term deficit challenges. we have yet to see even an
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acknowledgement of republican leaders of the fact that there is no deal that does not include rates going up on top earners. as the president said in the interview you cited and said before, he doesn't hold the position because it's inherently good orments to punish wealthy americans, but holds it because it's mathematically sound. it's an absolute fact there's no way to achieve balance in a broad deficit reduction package, a balance that requires significant revenues without rates going up on top earners. you cannot achieve it through promised closing of loopholes or capping of deductions, and you certainly can't achieve it through the kind of vague proposal that we see from republicans which contains no specificity whatsoever, not a single deduction named or
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loophole identified to be close so rates have to go up. the president believes that, and it's part of the proposal that his team put forward to congress that we need to have a frame work here that envisions dealing with the fiscal cliff and deadlines we face at the end of the year, but recognizes that broader entitlement reform, broader tax reform would take more than the few weeks that we have remaining here at the end of the year, and that that should be part of the process next year, but rates are going up. they have to go up. it is the economically essential thing that we have to do as part of a balanced approach to deficit reduction and the fiscal cliff. he will not accept a deal that has specific cuts in spending, in entitlement programs that asks middle class americans,
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seniors who need loans, disabled children to pay a price on the one hand, and the promise, the vague promise, the unspecified promise of a revenue that appears from wealthier americans in the future. that's not a deal the president will not sign. >> i understand the process and what the white house is looking for from republicans, but i'm asking about the president's position. a yes-or-no question. his position that the tax rate has to go to 39.6% on january 1. >> he will not sign the bush tax cuts for wealthy americans. they have rates for top earners at 35%. if you don't sign it, it's up to 39.6 #, the top rate. that's a fact. secondly, he has not seen a single proposal or acknowledgement that a proposal is necessary or will be forthcoming from republicans that even it would be part of
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the balanced deal. we are now where we are in december, and we need congress, republican leaders in congress to be serious about what the parameters of a deal look like, and the only obstacle or the major obstacle to an agreement is this refusal to acknowledge that rates have to go up. once republicans do do that, the president believes, we believe, that the contours of an agreement are pretty evident, and an agreement could be reached. the president made clear he's willing to move off of his proposal that he is not wedded to every detail of his plan, and he has acknowledged in advance he has to make tough choices, and the democrats won't get
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everything they want, but on the fundamental issue of balance and where revenues have to come from, republicans need to acknowledge reality here because rates have to go up. that has been a debate that was engaged in throughout the year. it is a policy position the president held for four years. it comes to no one on capital hill or the country that is a position supported by the majority of the american people, and, you know, we need to see from republicans an acknowledgement of that and willingness to work together to move towards a compromise that includes revenues that meet the daisic test of fairness and balance. >> right. so sounds like -- >> i'm not negotiating the fine details. we went through this before.
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39.58 or is it 39-point -- the point is the only proposals on the table are ones to extend middle class tax cuts for 98% of the american people. the only obstacles are the refusal of republican leaders to let a vote take place in the house on the senate bill. could happen tomorrow, the president could sign it tomorrow sending certainty to the american people, and middle class americans, business leaders around the country who want to ensure that consumers out there have the money to spend at their businesses, and it would send a signal broadly that we can take action op things in the very least we request agree on. we sign those into laws, those tax cuts for the american people. tax rates return to what they were for the high income americans in the clinton era, when, while, i saw a prominent republican senator declare that raising taxes on wealthy
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americans would cause economic arm armageddon, we know from experience that that is actually not the case, and we know from the clinton budget in 1993 what the result of that budget deem -- deal was and the decisions made them. the result was the longest peacetime economic expansion in our lifetimes, and the result of it was a situation where president clinton inherited deficits and passed on to his successor budget surpluses. >> if you look at the debate right now from outside washington, it's very easy to see this looks like a version of the default crisis or the government shutdown crisis in which it plays down to the end, comes down to a deadline. both sides not just making positions, but campaigning in different ways. is this good government right now? it's not good government for one
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party in congress to refuse to acknowledge what a compromise has to include. a compromised position that is not just the president's positionings not just the democrats' party position, but the position of the american people. there's data, again today, that reenforced that fundamental fact. it is not good government when the reference you made to our debt ceiling debacle to even hint at the possibility of holding the american party hostage again to the ideological whims of one wing of one party for congress. that's unacceptable. congress has its responsibility. payment of bills that the united states incurs because congress passes bills that incur debts.
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congress has to raise the debt ceiling and do it without drama. it should be part of the deal, should be done, and you talk about something that causes heart burn among america's businessmen and women, that's the prospect we engage in those kinds of shenanigans again. that's unacceptable. yes, jeff? >> speaking. debt ceiling, does an agreement have to be part of the agreement to divert the fiscal cliff? >> we're not going to negotiate over what is a fundamental responsibility of congress, which is to pay the bills that congress incurred. it should be part of the deal. it should be done. it should be done without drama. we cannot allow our economy to be held hostage again to the whims of an ideological agenda. it's -- we are the united states of america. we are the greatest economy on earth. we pay our bills. we always have.
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you know, if congress wants to reduce spending, that should be part of the negotiations that go into making decisions about how we spend, you know, the programs we spend money on, and the president's very interested in reducing spending and reducing our deficits, but you don't default on the economy. that is -- we saw -- >> [inaudible] >> yes. we saw what happened in 2011, and it's unacceptable. >> did the president have to chance to speak to republicans last night at the reception here about the fiscal cliff? >> i won't read out conversations. the president and first lady met with scores and scores of lawmakers last night as is the norm in a situation like this, but i'm not going to read out individual conversations. >> [inaudible] >> i've seen a report that speaker boehner was not part of the receiving line, but the
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president has conversations with speaker boehner with some regularity and looks forward to speaking with him again. >> last question then. both sides have given their proposal. you said what you need to see from the republican side. what, in terms of process now, is the next step? >> well, conversations continue between our team and lawmakers and their teams. the president will have conversations as well. i don't have any to preview to you or read out to you, and the conversations will encompass not just leaders of congress, but business leaders and civic leaders and governors and others who have a stake in the process and the outcome of the negotiations, but as secretary geithner said over the weekend, as, i think, president obama conveyed in the interview today with bloomberg tv, he remains confident we can get this done.
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he remains optimistic that once republicans accept that there is no deal without an acknowledgement and acceptance that rates have to go up on higher end earners that, well, we can find a compromise here that resolves the fiscal cliff and takes a very important step towards the kind of broad balanced deficit reduction package that do enormous good to the economy. the kind of package i should not leave out with targeting investments so the economy continues to grow and create jobs. as i said on occasions, deficit reduction in and of itself is not a goal, but part of the plan that is focused on economic growth and job creation. president's very focused on that. jay? >> just a second ago, you referred to how the debt ceiling, taking it off the table, needs to be part of the deal. you referred to the economy, you
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called held hostage by the ideological team. you were aware of this, senator obama was against -- >> we addressed that. there was no threat of default at the time. what happened in 2011, as we know, what happened, we lived it, most of us in this room, was the threat of default, a willingness expressed on the record and publicly by numerous members of congress to see the american's economy, and under defort, and with all of the consequent impacts on the global economy and the american middle class in order to achieve some sort of political victory that was driven by ideology and partisanship, enormously damaging to the economy, to consumer confidence. we were downgrades famously, and it is a testament to the american people and the american economy, the american business,
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and some of the success we have had working with congress that we have been able to rebound and the economy continues to grow and create jobs, but the fact is that was a self-inflicted won, and we can't have that nonsense anymore -- >> it's okay for people to engage in that nonsense if it's -- >> jake, i appreciate the question, and we engaged in this a lot at the time, and, you know, i refer you to my comments about it back then, but the fact -- >> aren't people voting the way senator obama did and refusing to reset terms. >> the republicans in congress in 2011 demanded, said they would let american default if they did not get the items on their agenda. that was consequential and unprecedented, and the result was bad for everyone. >> okay. anyway, moving on, two weeks ago, the committee for responsible budget, a bipartisan group, that includes a lot of democrats that the president
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consults with including tyson and rivlin and others, they put out a paper on raising revenues from high earners. they say that thrtion a middle ground in which democrats raise revenues, republicans avoid rate increases, the same amount of revenue, but you don't agree with the numbers? >> independent economists assess, that add up the numbers on paper, but wiping out the charitable deduction, it's not plausible. talk about cutting into the mortgage deduction in a way that taxes, middle class americans, that violates the principle that the president has -- in order to preserve low taxes, low tax rates for wealthy americans, to ask the middle class to pay the price, is not going to happen. it's just not good policy. no, i'm just -- >> talking about only taxes on those families who make more than $250,000. >> i have to look at that
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proposal, but the proposals we've seen and amized that imagines you can achieve the necessary amount of revenue from closing deductions or capping deductions or closing loopholes, does that in one of two ways. one, raises taxes on the middle class by eliminating, you know, very family-friendly deductions like the mortgage deduction or health care deduction and others, or by taking draconian action on the charitable action or others that just aren't good policy or politically fusible or realistic, and i don't think members of either party want to explain to non-profit hospitals, major charities or universities and others that all of that contributions they received in the past will not be forthcoming because of the an action of congress. i just don't think that's realistic. >> if, one last question, sorry,
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if the amount of revenue were the same as raising rates, does it matter how the -- as long as the revenue's raised from wealthier americans, with the stipulation there's one deduction you don't want to take away for charitable -- >> there's not just one. that's one as an example. it is, you know, i'm happy to provide more detailed response to the questions about this particular proposal, but we have not seen, and no economists have seen the proposal that said you can achieve the revenues necessary for a balanced approach just by closing loopholes and capping deductions. >> thank you. >> dan? >> thank you for being here. you said awhile ago that conversations continue on the fiscal cliff, but an aide told cnn there's no talks or private communications right now, no back channels, no e-mails going back and forth. if this is the case, how can you --
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>> somebody on background told you that. we do not -- i want to say in answer to the question -- >> [inaudible] >> answer to your question, we do not schedule meetings to the press, and we do not negotiate to the press. we do not, for example, give the press our proposals before we give them to the republicans. we do not go to meetings in proposals and leak them or take proposals from the other side to leak to the press. that's not the way we're operating here. >> right, but -- >> conversations continue at levels in different groups whether there's e-mails being exchanged at the moment. there are conversations taking place. president met with scores of lawmakers last night and had conversations. i won't get into the details of the conversations. it's inconceivable to me that nobody mentioned the fiscal cliff, but i was not present for all of them. >> those are the governors -- >> the law lawmakers last night.
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>> not just one, but there's -- >> i understand there's a desire to try to negotiate through the press, but we prefer to do it directly. >> iran, the u.s. drone they claim they shot down. do you have information on that? the navy said it's not theirs, perhaps a cia drone. i don't know. anything that you can tell us about that? >> i can tell you we have no evidence that the iranian claims you cite are true. i'd refer you to the pentagon's comments this morning about the type of uav, but, again, no evidence that the claims are true. >> how do you view, though, the fact they have shot some drone -- >> again, we have no evidence to hear the claims are true. i'm not going to comment on something about which we have no evidence in its truthfulness. yes? >> jay, thanks.
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i want to go back to what the president asked in the interview with bloomberg. during the negotiations with speaker boehner, a year ago, he was willing to consider increasing the eligibility age for medicare recipients and slowing benefits for entitlements, and he said he was willing to look at anything that strengthens our system. can you clarify, are those prams that could strengthen the system, is that what he was signaling? >> i will say a couple things that build on and echo what the president said today and in the past. we put forward substantial and specific savings in entitlement programs. both health care entightmentments, and, you know, non-health care mandatories to use budget speak like foreign subsidy programs and others. those, as i said, those savings are substantial and specific. the president has said and continues to say that in the negotiations with congress over the spending side, the spending cut side of the package, he
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wants to hear other ideas, and from all sides, republicans, democrats, and from the outside, and willing to entertain the ideas, and he says he knows he will not get everything he wants or every item in the proposal, and he has to make tough decisions. i'm going to negotiate specific items that may or may not be discussed or put forward. i think, yesterday, about the two you mentioned, that those two, in and of themselves, the savings contained objective by taking those two measures are less in savings of what the president put forward. again, not ruling in or out discussions on a serious proposal, but my point is there, the president demonstrated with specificity and seriousness he's willing to take steps to garner savings from our entitlement programs including health care. he put forward proposals for savings, deficit reduction
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through increased revenues. what we have not seen from republicans is specificity at all when it comes to revenues or acknowledgement that rates have to be a part of it or specificity at all, closing loopholes, capping deductions, and, in fact, the proposal offers that the speaker put forward they want to lower rates for the wealthy not just leave them alone, but lower them. secondly, while there's been a little more details from republicans on entitlement reformings, we're not going one without the other. president's been very clear we're not going to, you know, sign on to a deal that locks in sacrifice from the middle class, that locks in sacrifice from senior citizens or families with disabled chirp on the one hand, and then has, as its other
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element, a vague promise of tax reform and closure of loopholes that may r or may not produce revenue from the wealthy. you know why? because whenever that happens, the middle class is left holding the bag. >> on that specific point, are the two points a possible compromise? i just said the president is willing to discuss serious proposals, put forward -- >> [inaudible] >> i'm not going to negotiate on any -- i'm not saying yes or no. i'm saying that the president looks forward to negotiates and discussing specific, serious proposals for spending cuts,ing inning cuts in health care and entitlement programs that might be put forward by republicans or democrats, but there is no deal to be had on the spending side without acknowledgement and acceptance by republican leaders that rates have to go up on top earnings. that's part of the balanced approach. >> the president said he didn't think it was possible to get a comprehensive reform package on
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taxes and entitlements in the next two weeks because it has to be done next year. the question is what would be included in the plan to compel congress to act when they have nonpresident able to make the tough decisions up until this point? >> well, i -- there's a long history of mechanisms that are set up in this way like president reagan and others. if there's an area of agreement that we see between republicans and democrats in the white house on how to move forward structurally here in terms of the frame work, it is that it would have that two-step aspect to it, that a part locked in at the end of the year here and an extra measure. >> [inaudible] >> i'm not getting into the details of a deal that's not been negotiated, but there's a
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variety of ways to do this as envisioned, i think, by both republicans and democrats. >> one other. yesterday, you, the president, secretary of state talked about increased concerns over assad's action. given the increased concern, has the president, the secretary of state started to more seriously considering arming the rebels, no-fly zone, any other alternatives? >> our position on that issue has not changed. we think it is important for all scenarios. it is important to know they are on the issue, but we continue to believe that political resolution is the best resolution in syria. >> any indication that assad got the president's message yesterday and took it to heart? [inaudible] >> obviously, have not had a direct conversation --
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>> right -- >> it would be hard to imagine they are not fully aware of the seriousness of the president's position on this, the seriousness with which we would take the prospect of the use of chemical weapons and, you know, i think that message was delivered clearly by the president, by others in the administration, and others around the world. we continue to say that if the assad regime makes the mistake of using chemical weapons or fails to meet obligations to secure chemical weapons, there will be consequences, and the regime will be held accountable. >> [inaudible] you said a loophole there. they have to use the weapons first before we do anything? preparations to say it's not enough? >> i'll repeat what i said, connie. if the assad regime makes the mistake of using chemical weapons or fails to meet the obligations to secure them,
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there's consequences, and the regime is accountable. the president spoke about this explicitly, and we had the conversation yesterday about another component of this is proliferation. it's use by syria or proliferation of its chemical weapons stock files, yes. >> you said that the president is focused on economic growth. i think in answer to ben, it's economically important to raise the rates. i seem to recall when the president extended all the bush tax rates in 2010, one of the reasons, publicly, was that you don't raise taxes in the middle of the downturn. given the fact the economy comes along to the point you want to stimulate it with new spending, what's the economic justification for raising taxes? >> the fat of the matter is it's vitally important that we extend, and, in the president's view, make permanent tax cuts
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for 98% of the american people. the president wants that done tomorrow and would sign it right away. the obstacle is the refusal of republicans in the house to accept that premise. secondly, while we are continuing to dig ourselves out of the mess of the great recession, the economy continues to create jobs, but it is the president's position you have to address the goal in a way that would not achieve deficit reduction as a goal unto itself, and in a way that harms the economy or harms growth. in fact, the only reason why we are having this discussion about the fiscal cliff because i think there's a shared concern about the impact of tax hikes of the magnitude that would result if you don't extend tax cuts for the middle class and cuts size and envisioned in the sequester
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on the economy because that's using an unfair and blunt device to reduce our deficits. we need to do this in a balanced way, and what economists agree is that tax cuts for middle class americans, tax cuts for 97% of small businesses have far greater positive economic impact than tax cuts for the wealthiest of americans because the tax cuts too ordinary folks tend to go back into the economy at the most immediate and beneficial way. i think that, you know, it is important to talk about the debate that we are talking about 98% of the american people, 98%. , and 100% of the american people, buffet, zuckerberg,
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everybody gets one if top cuts are extended. they just pay more at $250,000. maybe you make 3 # 00,000, i don't know, i hope it's more, but you would get a tax cut on the first $250,000 of your income, okay? he would only pay a higher rate on the last $50,000. the point is, and then there's the canard with small businesses that republicans throw out, refuted again and again and again by outside independent experts, and we issue with the supposition that small businesses by anyone, any dmon definition include hedge fund managers, include law partners, you know, the small businesses we need to help most are the ones that have been helped by the president's numerous tax cuts and tax credits for small business and held by extension of the tax cuts for those earning less than $250,000.
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>> not good government for one party to dig in, but how can it be good government, then, when speaker boehner puts a plan on the table, and the white house says it's so ridiculous, in your words, you will not even do a counteroffer. where's the leadership to say, okay, we don't like it, but here's a counter. why not? >> we're not going to negotiate with ourselves over -- >> put it on the table. he put something on the table. you have to admit -- >> it's a couple sentences -- it's not a plan to increase revenues through loophole closures and deduction caps with not a single element of specificity. we don't know who pays. we don't know what we're talking about in terms of actual legislation to increase revenues. it's magic beans and fairy dust. the president put forward specific proposals. look, i acknowledge that not
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with great specificity, there's more meat on the bones in terms of the proposals on the spending cut side. when it comes to revenues, it doesn't meet the test of balance or the necessary test of specificity. >> the fact he at least put $800 billion in revenues, which republicans have not wanted to do, there's a piece of paper where the speaker of the house, specific or not, he's for revenues, that's movement by republicans. would you at least say that's a step towards where you are? >> look, i was acknowledged broadly speaking in the wake of the election, the acknowledgement from many republicans, the speaker of the house, that revenues of the wealthy have to be part of the progress, but it is not enough to achieve a deal. the president's been very clear that rates have to go up. it's the only way to achieve the revenue target that allows for a balance package of reduction and assure the middle class is not
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stuck holding the bag as it has traditionally in these deals in the past when promises of revenues have been paired with specific cuts that affect real people around the country. >> we know you are stylish and a reader of "vogue" i'm sure, anna going to be the ambassador to the united kingdom? >> no personnel announcements to make, and i'll leave it out that. >> you said, "magic beans and fairy dust," is that what the white house is talking to the republicans about? >> no, we are engaging, broadly speaking, with stake holders, about how we move this process forward. i think it is fair to say that -- >> [inaudible] >> it's fair to say that separate from or in addition to the proposal provided to the press --
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>> [inaudible] >> prior to us receiving it, there's other conversations happening about how we achieve a deal and a compromise. i'm not going to read out specific conversations, and i think the stakeholders involved in the process are broader than those you all envision meeting in the roosevelt room because this is a process that affects far more people than the dennisons of washington. you know, the president's continuing to push the process forward. we know what the contours of an agreement look like. we certainly hope republican leaders in congress acknowledge the fundmental fact that rates have to go up on the top 2% in order to make sure a deal is balanced not leaving the middle class or seniors bearing the burden of the important economic goals. >> ben and i are burdened by the inability to understand exactly what the president was conveying on the question of rates. all right? [laughter] >> hold on -- >> [inaudible]
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>> let me unburden you -- >> citing material from republicans who look at this, there's a two-stage process. leaving open the possibility of re-examining rates in the context of tax reform. ben asked, and i repeat, on behalf of clarify for the press, "is it the president's position that now to avert the fiscal cliff as it relates to the middle class tax cuts, rates have to go to the clinton era now, and can be revisited. not revisited now or tweaked now, but later, and only later? >> there's been a desire on the specific point to have me make, again, proposals and offers to the republican that i'm not going to do. >> deferring? >> well, you know, we're not going to -- there's a reality here. tax cuts expire own december
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31st, and the fact of the matter is when it comes to raising rates, we're not asking republicans to vote for a tax hike on the top 2%. we're asking them to simply acknowledge that rates, should, as legislated by congress in bills written by republicans, allow tax cuts to expire because we can't afford them anymore. i mean, you don't need the economic lecture, but we coveredded it. you know, look add what happened to the economy at least in part because of the economic policies in place that included two massive, greater than $1 trillion each, that largely went to the wealthiest. that's not the economic policy we can afford to pursue longer. the president's clear. rates have to go up. we all knowledge now democrats, republicans, the white house said a process has to be in place here that envisions two stages because there's interest in entitlement reform by all sides, interest in tax reform by all sides, but that is not
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likely to be achieved between now and the end of the year. there is an agreement that can be reached that is balanced, it's fair, that commits all sides to tough choices, and want president is interested in achieving that deal. >> the debt ceiling, -- adjudicated and dealt with in the cliff deal report december 31st. >> it is congress' responsibility to pay the bills it incurs. >> [inaudible] >> the congress should do its job. we're not going to entertain the kind of brinksmanship that some in congress prefer to engage in back in 2011, and not just from
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democrats, but businesses large and small, that that kind of, you know, behavior is so antethet call in what we need for the economy to grow and get people back to work that we certainly expect it will not happen again and we certainly expect that leaders in congress will acknowledge that and do their job. it is part of congress' routine responsibility to pay the bills of the united states, bills incurred through legislation passed by congress, and congress ought to get on with it. >> [inaudible] >> jen? >> thank you, jay. two questions. one, is the president planning to do anything to throw any
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weight on the -- [inaudible] >> i don't have scheduling announcements or events, but the president is interested in this and wants it done, and the vice president, as you know, is an author of the original vinals -- violence act is focused on thissing i just don't have events to read out. it's your position and urge congress to act. >> the specifics -- >> i don't have any information to read out, but happy to get back to you. >> sec of all, i saw the obama administration put the payroll tax cut back on the table in the proposal. i know that the white house is doing these my# -- my2k hash tags. why not my3k because the payroll is back in it? >> that's a good question.
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i appreciate the contribution to the communication's thinking. the facts of the matter is we are clear that we believe unemployment insurance has to be extended, and we believe all the precisions expire at the end of the year have to be a part of the conversation and discussion. we are interested in payroll tax cuts being interested in very much part of the discussion. i'm not going to get into the specifics of our negotiations, but, you know, two things. one is we fought very hard. the president fought hard for the payroll tax cut and the payroll tax cut extension. around this time last year, i think i was entertaining similar questions, which is, why cannot the president meet with speaker boehner right now? the deal was done, and american families benefited enormously from it during a time it was important economically, and we'll evaluate that in the broader discussions we are having about taxes, but i, you know, i'm not going to get into
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the speives of what's part of a time deal if we can get there once republicans knowledge realities that confront them. >> [inaudible] >> next communications meeting. roger? >> thanks. the president is speaking at the roup table. do you have a preview -- >> the president gave you an excellent president on your network and just moments ago. >> then to follow-up, would you say or is it fair to say that a majority of the members are largely on board with this proposal? >> i wouldn't want to speak for them or characterize their positions. you ought to speak to them. broadly speaking, business leaders have a lot of interest in some of the items that the president is pushing hardest, which is extension of the middle class tax cut, dealing with deficits in a responsible and balanced way, and making targeted investments, specifically going to the proposal that we offered this
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week in infrastructure, putting people to work, building roads and bridges and schools. you know, this is an agenda i think is very business friendly and middle class friendly. that's the point. it is the kind of agenda that has a broad con consensus behin, and it is designed specifically to help the economy grow both in the near term and long term. >> a quick follow-up on something else. hurricane sandy. governor cuomo acting for the other governors, as well as to assemble a package of about $83 billion. have they made that proposal to the president, or is it just to the budget directers, and will there with a supplemental coming from the administration this week? >> well, yesterday, governor cuomofuls here -- cuomo was here to discuss
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activities remitted to -- related to hurricane senators and met with other members of the president's teamment on the issue of the supplemental, we expect to discuss the ongoing support that the federal government continues to provide for effective communities and our state and local partners. the administration obligated more than $2.1 billion to support response efforts including $1 billion approved in direct assistance to hundreds of thousands of individuals affected by the storm. we're working closely with the partners in states and in congress, but i have no more details for you at this time. all right. >> you and the president described the use of chemical weapons of syria as a line not to be crossed without incurring consequences. why was the bright line in the rearview mirror? >> we were clear about the
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policy with syria, engaging directly and supported the syria people and opposition. we provided humanitarian support to the people and non-lethal support to the opposition, worked with the international partners to help the opposition form itself and take steps to prepare for a post assad sierra that reflects the will and wishes of the sierra people and respects the liberties of the syrian people. assad's brutality earned him a dismal place in history, and we continue to work with our partners to hasten the day when that regime is no longer in any control of any part of syria. in the meantime, on the issue of syria's chemical's weapons, the
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president has been exceedingly clear about the red line that you mentioned. we continue to make clear that if the assad regime uses chemical weapons in response to the fact that the opposition has been making gains, and that their brutal crack down has not worked, or if they were to engage in proliferation, there will be consequences, and, you know, this is a grave matter, and one the president takes seriously as do our many international partners on this issue. kristy? >> on those warnings to assad yesterday, can you talk about what prompted them? what preparations have they picked up on to concern? >> we closely monitor syria's proliferation materials and facilities, and we believe, as of now, their chemical stockpiles remains under syria
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control, but we monitor them. beyond that, i can't discuss matters of intelligence. >> as the rebels advance, their concern over the administration that rep weapons of mass destruction could be volatile? >> i said yes before i let you fin issue your question, and -- finish your question, and i apologize. i thought it would be as the opposition advances, do we have concerns about the possibility that the assad regime in test praition would use chemical weapons, and the answer to that is yes. broadly speaking, we have concerns about the disposition of weapons, but as i noted earlier, it's our belief, based on monitoring, the weapons remain in control of the syria regime. >> [inaudible] >> one more after. >> the red line, syria has two
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two -- [inaudible] where do syria people expect to go -- china, russia, support the assad's regime? >> we noted the opposition made gains, the assad continues to lose control over syria. it is no mystery that we were disappointed in the failure of the security council because of a lack of agreement by some members to take actionings through -- actions through the council with assad and work with our international partners to pressure assad and assist the people of syria and the opposition, that that work continues. >> represent china? >> i think i addressed that question. >> thank you, sir. >> john? >> thank you. the world's financial community
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is watching this fiscal cliff process closely with concern. the parties fail to reach a deal before jan -- january 1, what assurances do you have that america will not default on its debt? >> well, we addressed the issue of the debt ceiling, and the president's firm belief it is unconceivable that -- and unacceptable that leader in congress want to engage in brinksmanship witnessed in 20 # 11 on the issue of making sure the united states continues to pay its bills and does not default. the president calls on congress to do its job, and to take care of raising the debt ceiling. that's part of the end of the year deal because this is not something that the greatest nation on earth should be engaged in in a regular way where the whole world has to hold its breath to find out
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whether a faction in the house of representatives is going to force us into default. it's just not the way we should be doing business. thank you, all. [inaudible conversations] >> government firms talked about how the national debt impacts national security. among the speakers, former joint chief the chair, admiral mike mullen, and former senate committee chair sam warner and c-span3 has that discussion live at three eastern.
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>> as part of the series looking at the so-called fiscal cliff that's looming, we are looking at different aspects of it, and, today, we turn attention to the alternative minimum tax, and the patch that could come from congress, if they are able to
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work out a deal. if they do nothing, this impacts 30 million americans. joining us to discuss is georgetown law's george buckley. thank you for being here. john, let's begin. what is the alternative minimum tax? >> guest: in very simple terms, the tax requires you to pay the greater ever what you pay under the regular income tax or what you compute under the minimum income tax with a slightly broader base disallowing deductions that would be allowed in the regular tax. in some republics, it's very similar to the cap on itemized deductions that's currently being discussed rather than directly attack preferences in expendtures, it essentially puts a cap on the benefit. there's no new ideas in the debate. the cap bear a strong relationship to how the
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alternative minimum tax works. glrs -- >> host: here's the form from the irs, and part one, the alternative minimum taxable income, all the instructions, 28 of them, to come up with whether you fall into the amt. how's it work? how do you know? >> you know, i believe you can only do this with computer programming. the programs tax preparing, and if we didn't have computerized preparing tax returns, i believe the amt would have been refeeled a long time ago. if people really had to go through that form and try to figure out and fill in all the details, there would have been a very strong revolt, and not just against complexity, but the additional tax. it's burdensome is you try to do it without tax return
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preparation software. >> host: give us the history of the tax. >> it was formed in 1986. it was a goal of tax reform proponents to have a robust minimum tax, and in their desire from a minimum tax blew out of the fact that they were unable to directly reduce tax expenditures so they say this as a politically feasible way of attacking what they saw as unwarranted tax expenditures. like i said, similar to the proposals for a cap. they enacted in 1986 at the time when the fondest dreams were realized. it was a very serious tax reform making the tax element obsolete from the beginning. the only tationz benefits denied after 86 are ones that most
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people consider to be middle class personal exemption, the standard deduction, income and property taxes. those are the main deductions that are disallowed in the emt. after 1986, the emt was no factor. it did not apply to many people. it was not indexed so it garagely began to apply to more people. the real expansion of the ema came after the 1997 reduction in the capital gains rate. the emt has a desire rate structure, the higher rates over a broad segment of income. in 1997, reduced the capital gains rate from 28% to 27%.
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people did rush out to sell assets to take advantage of the reduced rate. many of them found their rate reduction went from 28% to 27% they switched taxes, and the capital gains rate is higher then the higher rates in incomes, and that was the first broad expansion that hit people. in 2001, they reduced regular tax rates, but it did not reduce amt tax rates. for millions of people, and i'm one of those, the 2001 tax bill only changed the name of the tax i paid. i got very little benefit from the rate reductions because i was just shifted over to the
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minimum tax, and it -- in my opinion, the expansion minimum tax has nothinged -- nothing to do with the index, but it is the result of that conscious decision in 2001 to hide the cost of the bush tax reductions by leaving the amt in place. >> so, if you -- the highest -- the alternative minimum tax is 28%. what you say is after 2001, if your tax rate was lowered to 25% or something, you paid the amt, which was 25%? >> guest: you're correct, but wrong for incomes between $200,000 and $500,000, the effective rate is 35%. >> host: okay. >> guest: you hit the 35% rate at amt and incomes are lower than the income levels at which you would hit the rate in the
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regular tax. there's a bizarre rate structure. >> why is it called a "patch"? >> guest: because it's an ad hoc, one time, year-by-year patch to stop the broad expansion. it's just -- why did they call it a cliff? they have discussed this in terms of the pass, and the patch is nothing is there to prevent tens of millions of people from being forced to fill out the return that you have listed there. the only thing i would add is the patch, what makes it so critical in the fiscal cliff discussion is we are talking about the patch about the 2012
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taxable year, and unlike the fiscal cliff that affects tax rates that apply next year, the patch applies to the return that we will all have to file early next year. if there is not congressional action here, there is the abrupt increase in tax on the 2012 taxable year under -- in 2011, approximately 4 million people paid the amt. if there's not a patch, 30 # million people will be required to pay in 2012, and for the current taxable year, and they will pay app additional $90 billion in tax. none of them -- few of them have any idea that this is on the table. >> host: is the isr prepared? >> guest: the irs took a
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fairly unusual, but i think correct position, taking the position that congress will do the responsible thing so they did their tax programming for next year for the 2012 return, assuming congress would enact the patch before the end of the year. if -- i think that was the reasonable thing to do because almost -- even i believe they will do that -- however, it does mean if there's not a patch, the tax return filing season next year will be quite chaotic. >> host: john buckley is our guest talking about the alternative minimum tax part of the fiscal cliff negotiation, and as mr. buckley said, this impacts your 2012 # taxes so if you have comments or questions about it, dial in now. republicans 20 # 25853881.
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democrats 2025853080. others, 2025583822. >> it dates back to the 60s. this was a tax reform proposal if the kennedy administration. there have been a variety of forms of the minimum tax. this one, that current one is basically the 1986 version. >> host: and this is the "washington post's" graphic on the tax. right now, the amt hits 5 million upper middle class families who have many children or other speanses -- expenses and live in high cost states. it will affect 24 million people reaching deep into middle class
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because congress did not adjust for inflation. why is high cost states a factor in this? >> guest: well, currently, with a patch, you would have to have income in the 200,000 to 500,000 range because it's a high exemption. also, they call it a blue state problem because it applies to upper income people in states with robust state income reductions. there's state income taxes so currently, if you have a patch, it is a problem that most often falls between $200,000-$5,000,000 of income, individuals with children because personal exemptions are not allowed and those who reside in states with high income tax. >> host: new york, california.
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>> guest: maryland, dc; however, as your previous guest acknowledged, if you do not enact the patch, a family of four, you know, married couple with two children, would begin to face the amt at income levels as low as $70,000. it changes -- it's often been described as a blue state problem. because of the impact on state tax deductions. without the patch, it becomes every state's problem. it's then it's an additional tax on families with children. >> host: if you wonder whether or not you fall into the amt, whether or not it impacts you, go to taxpolicycenter.org, there's a calculator on the website to help you plug in the numbers and figure out whether or not the amt would apply to you if congress doesn't do anything or if it applies to you. we'll hear from joe, first,
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austin texas, republican caller, go ahead, joe. >> caller: hi. yeah, on the alternative minimum tax, we really didn't hear this discussed at all during the last election cycle, and, to me, you know, we just heard about the rich who get income through stock, you know, not -- paying 15%, but it seems to me that would have to pay at the higher rate, and this this -- and this is the question of was is working, and why wasn't it discussed in the election cycle? >> guest: i argue it's not working. it only -- particularly would not work if you did not have a patch, but even with the patch, the way the amt work is it will increase tax -- for example,
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capital gains, the example you raised, the tax rate in the minimum tax for a variety of technical reasons is 22%, not 15%. if your income is between $200,000 and $500,000; however, once you're over $200,000, the rate drops to 15%. it's a totally bizarre effective rate structure that you have the higher marginal rates at -- between $200,000 and $500,000 is wealthy by my definition, but it is not as wealthy as making more than $500,000 so you have a structure that moderately wealthy pays higher effective tax rates than those which i consider to be truly well off, making more than $500,000. why it was discussed in the last
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election, i can't tell you. it's not discussed, enough, i believe in the current discussion of the cliff either. this is often ignored and the fact it takes effect for the taxable year means that it's not a gradual tax increase over the terms of next year. it's a one time, very dramatic increase. >> host: kent on twitter says "why has it taken 25 years to fix the inflation adjustment for the amt? eliminate deductions and have amt for all. " >> -- >> some proposed it could be cheaper to repeal the regular tax and retain the minimum tax because of the base and rate structure are what they are. i think it's the wrong type of tax reform largely because it
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dis allows benefits for family with chirp, disallows families the standard dedpux that's allowed. also, state income tax is a a legitimate deduction in determines your net income so i don't -- i don't see the deduction for state income taxes being a tax expendture. when i paid tax to the district of columbia, that is the cost, my cost, of earning that income, and it should be deductible i believe in computing me federal tax income little. it's not deductible. >> host: diane in new hampshire, go ahead. >> guest: good morning. >> host: morning. >> caller: fascinated to hear about the tax. it kills me every year. i'm a small business owner, and my income changes year to year. i can make $80,000 one year, and
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i can make $60,000 the next, and the next 45. i cannot process what the amt will be. looking at the last return here, made $60,000 and had an amt of $1700, a piggy back. talk about this because i don't consider making $80,000 as a single person and paying 13% of the social security out of and all my other cuts to be a lot of money. >> guest: no, i don't disagree with you at all. the amt is not what you would have designed as a tax -- a way to compute your federal income tax. it is the combination of a reform that was end acted after the need for the reform passed. it's really strange that the amt was enacted in 1986 at the time that they directly eliminated
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preferences that were the argument arian amt. the real expansion of the amt and probably the real reason why you pay the amt is because of the conscious decision in 2001 to reduce the advertised cost of the bush tax cuts by leaving the amt rates in place. >> host: when you say "costs," costs to the treasury, loss of revenue. >> guest: to the treasury. if you had an amt patch -- the amt disallowedded, and i'm fairly confident it probably is in your circumstance, disallowed the benefit of the bush rate reduction for a large number of people. now, they knew that in 2001. they consciously left the amt in place because without the amt, the advertised cost of the bush tax cuts would be far greater
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than what they were estimated to be at the time at that time. >> host: if you did a permanent fix to the amt, how much revenue loss would that be to the u.s. government? >> guest: if you left the current rate structure -- you'd have two serious proposals serious proposals their -- see their owes here. if you left the current structure in place -- you're talking -- i mean, a one year patch is $90 billion. >> host: $90 billion. >> guest: leaves it in place for 4 million people, that's $10 trillion for a repeal of the amt. now, i have to agree with congressman cole that nobody believes the money comes in. everybody believes -- see this discussion and all our in-depth segments on our website at c-span.org.
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now to the u.s. ?as for work on defense programs and policy. a number of amendments pending. senators hope to finish the bill this week. live business as usual here of the u.s. senate on c-span2.
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order. ms. stabenow: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. ms. stabenow: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i rise today to bring attention a critically important piece of legislation that the senate has passed and that the house needs to pass immediately. it passed the senate with bipartisan support. there are those on both sides of the aisle in the house of representatives that support passing it and i'm here to urge in the strongest terms possible that the speaker bring this bill up before the house and get it passed. now, many people, because of my speaking in the past, may be i'm
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referring to the farm bill, which i also believe we need to have the house take up and pass, because of our bipartisan work, but i actually after referring today to the fact that we have only 27 days until we go over the fiscal cliff, or for middle-class families, what this means is 27 days before their taxes go up on average $2,200. so what we're talking about is the fact that we passed a bil bill -- we didn't just pass a bill. we passed a bill in july, july 25 of this year, the senate passed a bill to extend tax cuts on all income up to $250,000. that's for anyone. and it's now sitting in the house and everybody agrees that middle-class families should not get a tax increase and yet they haven't taken it up.
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and this needs to be taken up and passed before the end of the year so that we can make sure middle-class families don't get caught in what we're now talking about, which is the fiscal cliff. for a family on a budget, $2,200 more in taxes means a lot of things. it means a lot of things as families are trying to figure out how to pay for christmas this year. you know, it's not an accident that we are saying layaway become very popular again, as families are trying to figure out how to make sure their children have the christmas they want to give them and yet juggle their cash flow situation in trying to figure out how to pay for it and pay the bills. that $2,200 will make a huge difference to millions of families. it's the difference between just paying the regular bills -- the utility bill, the mortgage, the rent, the car payment. and there's absolutely no reason that families should find themselves in a situation right now where they're worried about
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this. absolutely none. as i said before, we passed a bill on july 25. not august, not september, not october, july. july 25. to get this issue off the table. we know there are broader issues that we have to come together on. there has to be a balanced approach, we know that, on long-term deficit reduction. but we've said in the senate, on a bipartisan basis, we don't want middle-class families taught cawt in the middle of that. we -- caught in the middle of that. we don't want them being held hostage in order to get an additional tax break for multimillionaires. now, there's been 132 days since the house republican leadership got that bill. 132 days they have been refusing to take it up. now, i want to commend the democratic leader in the house, nancy pelosi, for now bringing
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forward a petition, discharge petition to bring that directly to the floor. and i think it's widely believed -- i certainly believ believe -- that there are enough votes on the floor of the house to pass this, to make sure that middle-class families don't see an additional $2,200 coming out of their paychecks starting in january. 132 days families have been waiting for their own economic certainty and yet it still hasn't been taken up in the house. christmas is three weeks from today. this is the worst possible time to create uncertainty for families across america. and we also know that this is about hurting the economy, that it's a drag on consumer spending not to continue the tax cuts. consumer spending, which makes up about 70% of the economy, so there's a direct relationship between what happens in growing the economy and what happens for
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middle-class families. now we have 27 days for the house to get this done. 27 days to stop holing middle-class families hostage while we work out a larger agreement on what needs to be done on deficit reduction. >all they need to do is to pass the senate bill. let me repeat. by extending this particular bill, every american -- every american -- will get a tax cut on their first $250,000 in income. now, the good news is, is that that involves tax cuts for 98% of american families. 98% of american families will be protected from seeing any kind of a tax increase. and people above that -- and 97% of small businesses, by the way. so you have a dollar over $250,000, you would not be
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protected from a tax increase and you would get the first $250,000 in tax cuts but you wouldn't get additional, bonus tax cuts on top of that. this makes sure that 98% of the american people do not see their taxes go up and that those who have benefited the most by the tax cuts in the last decade will be able to step up and be part of the solution on deficit reduction. which the vast majority of people in this country agree is fair. people in michigan are worried about what's going to happen. they're caught between the grocery store -- and i've received many, many e-mails and posts to my office on facebook and twitter. people in michigan understand that $2,200 more coming out of their pocket next year can be devastating. terry from langs told me that she unexpectedly -- terry from lansing told me that she unexpectedly lost her job
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when the company went out of business and has had to struggle through foreclosure, like too many families, and use their 401(k), her roth i.r.a. and savings to get by. and she writes, "i am part of the baby boomer generation, and now i live paycheck to paycheck, just barely surviving." $2,200 makes a huge difference to her. zelda from washinaw writes, "that $2,200, that's our groceries for four months." four months of groceries for zelda's family. it's what we're talking about. if the senate bill does not get passed by the house. carol from michigan writes, "i'm a retired grandmother getting a state pension and social security. i also have three teenage grandchildren living with me." not a new story for many, many people. three teenage grandchildren living with me. "any increase in anything might
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break me," she says. thomas from grand rapids write writes -- quote -- "i will most likely have to find a job to make ends meet." so much for being retired. and, again, so many families find themselves, so many individuals find themselves in a situation, think they have planned for their retirement and now can't count on what they thought would be there. and they watch this and the fact that we have a choice to be able to make sure tax cuts continue for 98% of the american families, middle-class families, that everybody gets a tax cut up to $250,000 a year and that the house republicans won't even bring it up for a vote because they want extra tax cuts for multimillionaires. and they look at that and they go, "what, are you crazy? this makes absolutely no sense." you know, president obama ran on a plan to end the tax breaks for
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millionsaires, basically the plan that passed the senate, by way, on -- by the way, on a bipartisan vote. and he ran on a plan by saying that those savings would then be aplayed to deficit -- applied to deficit reduction, which we know is so critical. and we saw what people thought about that. he was reelected by a wide margin. the american people want us to come together, to work together in a bipartisan way to reduce the deficit, and they support the approach that starts by making sure that middle-class families are not once again asked to pay for the full burden of what needs to be done. they support an effort that says, extend tax cuts for middle-class families and ask those at the very top, who have gotten extra tax cuts, to forego those and chip in to be part of the larger deficit reduction
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solution. unfortunately, yesterday, speaker boehner ignored this when he offered a republican counterproposal to the president's proposal that would essentially raise taxes on middle-class families and cut medicare for our senior citizens. as senator reid said yesterday, it flunks the test of balance. to get the kind of revenue to reduce the deficit that is needed, and that we all agree on has to be done, their plan does some radical things. their idea of revenue is to continue the tax cuts for any income above $250,000 for multimillionaires and instead to get rid of tax deductions used by middle-class families. so middle-class families might not have the mortgage deduction on their home that millions of people we lie on.
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the student loan deduction for middle-class families that's allowing college to be more affordable. the charitable giving deduction that middle-class families rely on when they donate to churches and other nonprofits. the marriage penalty, the child credit, the mortgage tax relief deduction that i authored to make sure if you have to do a short sale with the bank, you don't pay extra taxes. what's important i think for everyone to understand is that we -- and i'm speaking now as senate majority -- are not going to balance the budget on the backs of middle-class families. we are not going to balance the budget, reduce the deficit by asking middle-class families, who've had the biggest hit of anybody, with everything that's happened in the recession. and i certainly can speak for michigan on this. we're not going to put the burden on middle-class families one more time. that's not what this is about. on election day, 60% of voters
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said they wanted to end the extra tax breaks for people making over $250,000, for income over $250,000, yet the house republican leadership wants to welcome middle-class families into the new year by having their taxes go up on average $2,200. and as zelda from michigan said, that's four months' groceries. four months' groceries. no way. there's no way i'm going to support letting that happen. now, thankfully, we do have republican colleagues who join us in wanting to get this pass passed. we did in the senate and there are those speaking out in the house. and i commend them. congressman tom cole from oklahoma stated the obvious last week and i encourage and congratulate him for speaking out. he said that republicans should immediately extend the tax cuts for families for income make -- for families making under
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$250,000 a year. that's what he said and i agree with that. his constituents praised him. the congressman from oklahoma, his constituents praised him. unfortunately, his leadership dismissed him. "the washington post" reports that 70% of the calls to congressman cole's washington, d.c., office have been positive and that 90% of his calls back home in oklahoma -- 90% -- have wanted his position. congressman cole knows he should be listening to his constituents and he is. and if we all listened to the people we represent and if the house leadership listens to the people of this country and those they represent, they will pass the bill that we sent to them in july.
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if taxes go up for middle-class families on january 1, people are going to know who's responsible for letting that happen. i urge house republican leadership to take up senate bill 3412, the middle-class tax cut act, pass it now so that the overwhelming number of families in this community have certainty going into this important holiday season and into the new year so that they can enjoy this season without knowing that their taxes are going to be going up on january 1. we have, as of today, 27 days before the vast majority of people in america, 98%, see tax increases occur. it makes no sense. there's no reason for it to happen. we've already passed a bill. if the house passes a bill, that's step one.
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step one, very clearly saying we're all together on supporting the middle class, continuing to have tax cuts. we know there's more to do. we're fully prepared to do that. but step one is to make sure that the middle class are not held hostage while the debate goes on about what should happen with the wealthiest few in this country. thank you, mr. president. ms. stabenow: mr. president, i would ask that the senate resume legislative session. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. the clerk will report. the clerkthe clerk will report e pending business. the clerk: calendar 419, s. 3254, a bill to authorize appropriations for fiscal year 2013 for military activities of the department of defense and so
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forth and for other purposes. ms. stabenow: i would suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. webb: mr. president? mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from virginia. mr. webb: mr. president, we are about to wrap up the defense -- oh, i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without
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objection. it is so ordered. mr. webb: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, we are about to wrap up the defense bill. this is the sixth defense bill that i will have had the privilege of working on as a mmittee, as als it is also the l defense bill that i will be working on as a member of the united states senate, and i wanted to take this opportunity first to say what a honor and privilege it has been to serve as a member of that committee, as has the chair, and to express my thanks to chairman levin as someone who began his time on capitol hill as a committee counsel, full committee counsel on the house side many years ago and then spent five years in the pentagon, often working over here on the hill, and now six years in the senate, i can say that senator levin is a five-star committee chair. he is what one always hopes for when he or she serves on a committee in the united states congress. it has been a -- a true honor. this committee is an example of
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how committee work should be undertaken in the united states congress. people like to say that this is the 51st consecutive year that we have been able to -- hopefully -- we've been able to pass a defense authorization bill. i would suggest to my colleagues that perhaps that example should be used more broadly in this body. i think it would make for good governance if it did. i also would like to express my appreciation to senator mccain, the senator from arizona. i have known him as a colleague and a friend for more than 30 years. he comes from a family that has a long tradition of military service to our country that continues even until today. senator mccain and i have had occasional disagreements on the conduct of foreign policy but i think it's been very rare that we have seen differently our views of how the department of
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defense should undertake its responsibilities. i'd also like to, as the subcommittee chair of the personnel subcommittee, i'd like to express my appreciation to our staff for all the work that they have done on this bill and the others. gary lelee, john clark, bri fire and jennifer knowles. they have been always accessible, extremely professional. it's been a great privilege to work with them. and i'd like a special moment of privilege here to recognize gordon peterson, who has been my military assistant through my time in the united states senate. gordon peterson and i graduated from the naval academy in the same year. he was a very fine and respected athlete at the naval academy. he went on to become a helicopter pilot in combat in vietnam. he gave our country 30 years of distinguished service as a naval officer. later was the editor-in-chief of
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"seapower" magazine, was special assistant to the commandant of the coast guard, and has been unflagging in his attention to detail in everything that we have worked on in the last six years. we were talking a few days ago about whether either of us ever would have thought during the days of our plebe summer so many years ago that we would be sitting in the -- on the floor of the united states senate as stewards of the well-being of our country and of the people who served it. so i give a special thanks to gordon peterson, as he moves on to other challenges in his life. and, again, it's been my privilege to serve on this committee. and with that, i yield the floor. and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from new mexico. mr. udall: thank you, mr. president. i would ask for the quorum call to be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. udall: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i wanted to come down and talk about an amendment that i'm working on on the defense authorization bill. last week, senator corker and i introduced amendment numbered 3049 which would create an open pit -- open burn pit registry to the defense authorization act. our veterans and active duty members suffering from exposure to burn pits should not have to wait any longer. the senate veterans affairs
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committee agrees and has passed the legislation after holding hearings. however, i understand there is currently opposition to passing this amendment via a manager's package. i would note that we have already passed two amendments dealing with veterans yesterday. both the pryor amendment 3291 dealing with veterans employment and training and the reed of rhode island amendment 3165 dealing with housing assistance for veterans. both of these were outstanding amendments and helped maintain the trust that we have made to our veterans and our current service members who have an obligation -- who we have an obligation to care for when they have completed their service. in both afghanistan and iraq, open air burn pits were widely used at forward operating bases. disposing of trash and other debris was a major challenge. i believe like the rest of my colleagues that if we are
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forever in debt for their service to our veterans, we must be asking this question -- how did these burn pits impact the health of our returning heroes. this amendment is a step toward finding the answers we owe them. it is supported by numerous groups including burn pits 360, veterans of foreign wars, the association of the u.s. navy retired and enlisted association, the uniformed services disabled retirees and the national military family association. i'm hopeful that we can pass this amendment 3049 through a unanimous consent, but i respectfully request a vote at this time if no such agreement can be made. with that, i would note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. coburn: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: i ask the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. coburn: i just wanted to spend a few minutes talking about the reid amendment 3255, and 30 point out to my colleagues i know this amendment will pass, but i believe we ought to be on record as voting
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to add $1.7 billion in additional funds that our kids are going to pay for. this is paid for, but it's smoke and mirrors. we've used a trick in how we do this. and ultimately what's going to happen is here's another bill that will require funding from the health account at the pentagon, which is in operations and maintenance, which means we will not have $1.7 billion for naval exercises, for flight training, for tank training, for range training. in other words, out of this account is where comes all the preparedness. and i must give president obama credit. he has recommended what the committee recommended doing for the last two and a half years. and now we have an amendment
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that takes where the committee went to actually a small co-pay co-pay, increase in co-pay on pharmacy benefits for retirees, and reverses that and forces our veterans to have to use mail order. so -- and i'm okay with mail order, i know we save a lot of money with that. but the c.b.o. says as soon as you stop this one year, that the mandate's going to go back the other way and the cost is going to be this amount of money. so they've -- they've met the literal requirements of pay-go, but they haven't met the functional requirements. and so here we have another amendment that will take out of the operations and maintenance account. and that's important, but the most important thing in this debate is we continue to want to have benefits for our retired
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military that are growing faster than the rate of inflation, certainly faster than -- and not have them help pay for the increase in the benefits. we have $16.4 trillion worth of debt this morning. we have $88 trillion worth of unfunded liabilities. and now we're at this juncture where we're having a discussion between the speaker of the house and the president on how we get over the fiscal cliff and start to solve some of these problems and we have an amendment put up because there's a very powerful force, all the service organizations and everything else, said don't do this. well, everybody in our country if we're to get out of the problem is going to have to pay a small sacrifice. this is not a large amount of money unless you're absolutely destitute in terms of the co-pays. so the president has recommended we do that, the committee recommended it, and we're
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reversing it and using a gimmick so there can't be a budget point of order on it. there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when the decisions to control our future will be out of our hand in terms of the economics, and the debt. delaying that now because we do not want to yield against the popular criticism will cause us to pay a further great price, and it also with a very -- the very people who are going to be asked to contribute as part of fixing our country are going to be paying a greater price. you know, i just got a book from our colleague, the senator from rhode island, sheldon whitehouse. and i got it today and i've already finished half of it. and it has a wonderful
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introduction, i would recommend to all my colleagues, i know you'll get one to read it. but it's a collection of the thoughts and sayings. and if you read what daniel webster said and you read what benjamin franklin said and you read what winston churchill has said about bowing to the public pressure rather than doing the best right thing, you won't regret it. and so this is a popular amendment, it's going to pass, the service organizations want to you do it, but it's not the right thing to do. we have to begin as we negotiate increased revenues from the very wealthy in this country, declining expenses at defense department, everybody has to share. everybody in america. and if they don't share now, they'll share much more painfully in the future. mr. president, i don't have anything else to say on this
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other than i will vote against it. not because i -- not because i want veterans to have to have a co-pay but because i want our country to get out of the hole we're in and part of sharing that is a co-pay on retail pharmacy. i yield the floor and notice the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: before that --. the presiding officer: we're in a quorum call. mr. mccain: i ask further proceedings under the quorum call be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: as we are wrapping up here i would like to tell the senator from oklahoma that he is correct. former secretary of defense gates, probably the most respected secretary of defense that we have had in many years, said -- quote -- "health care costs are in his words, eating us alive. and there is no -- none of us, i don't know a single member of
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this body who don't want to make sure our veterans are taken care of, the widows, the orphans, the veterans as abraham lincoln described them. so we're going to have to find ways to bring these costs under control and still at the same time provide our veterans with the benefits that they have earned. i know of no one who joined the military because of tricare. i hear from all of the retirees and all that, well, they joined the military because of tricare. i've not met a single 18-year-old including my own son who joined the marine corps who said gee, i want to join the marine corps because of tricare. no, they join the military because they want to serve the country. and they understand that our obligation is -- to them is not to hand them a bankrupt defense
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department, that all the costs are in things like tricare and retiree benefits and other personnel costs so that we can't provide them with what they need to fight with. so i understand the positions of the veterans groups in this country. i respect them. i love them. i appreciate them. but we're going to have to get serious about entitlements for the military just as we're going to have to get serious about entitlements for nonmilitary. and i admit that our veterans are in a special category. no group of americans has been willing to serve and sacrifice like our veterans have. although there are certainly other americans who fives sphies and serve in many -- sacrifice and serve in many other ways. so i say to my friend from oklahoma, i look forward perhaps next year, i hope that the reid amendment will not be
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proposed at this time. we've got to sit down with the chairman and we're going to have to have some hearings, find out what these future costs of health care, for example, believe it's gone now from 11% health care costs as gone from 11% now to 13%, and it will continue higher -- of the entire defense budget. we can't keep doing that. we can't keep doing that. we adopted an amendment by senator gillibrand on autism services and the way that it's written will require -- will require an increase of $1.7 billion over the next ten years, and no way to pay for it. and i appreciate the senator from new york's dedication, but her answer was, well, we'd like to work with you on that. well, we got to do more than work on it.
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we've got to solve it. and so all i can say is while we are -- while we are waiting i hope that we understand that -- here it is. the d.o.d. health care costs represent nearly 11% of the total budget request for d.o.d., and it will continue to rise to more than 13%, and then it will go even higher and higher and higher. you know, there was an editorial in "the washington post" today that says time to it says in part, "the administration mr. president cuts including shah riping the army and marine corps. this is risky, given the potential threats the united states faces. unfortunately, congress is compounding the problem by protecting expensive items that inflate personnel costs without any corresponding payoff in defense readiness." so i would urge my colleagues to pay attention to the "time to
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rein in tricare" editorial in "the washington post" because i think it's important for us to understand. tricare costs have surged in recent years from $19 billion in fiscal year 2001 to $52.8 billion in fiscal 2011. i repeat that. in 2001, tricare costs were $52 -- were $19 billion. in 2011, it was $52.8 billion. and now much of the growth was driven by congress' 2001 decision to add what is certainlily a free medigap plan for retirees over 65, but the main issue is the ultra low fees and deductibles which give retirees still of working age little incentive to economize or choose employer plans. president obama's budget plan would save $27.8 billion over five years by gradually increasing working-age retirees'
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annual enrollment fees with lower income retirees paying the least and then adjusting them to the national health spending gross thereafter, et cetera. we won't be doing any of that with this bill. we don't be doing any of that. but i would argue to my colleagues that this is not the time now, here as we finish up with this bill, another additional costs that we have not found ways to pay for, which consume a larger and larger part of the defense budget. mr. levin: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: in a moment i'm going to note the absence of a quorum unless there's somebody who wishes to speak, but i want to try to work through this pending issue. i think it's the last issue we need to work through in some way before there's going to be a unanimous consent request that's profounded. and if we can --
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unanimous consent request that's propounded. and if we can figure out the best way to handle this and then offer a unanimous consent request, we will be able to reach the end of this bill this very day. so i now note the absence of a quorum. mr. mccain mccain: well, i woult ask my friend. i understand we have a managers' package. is it his preference that we do that and u.c. altogether? mr. levin: it is, thank you. mr. mccain: hopefully we'll have that shortly. i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. levin: mr. president, i ask unanimous consent that further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection.
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mr. levin: mr. president, i call up a list of 11 amendments which have been cleared by myself and senator mccain, kyl amendment 2927 as modified, akaka amendment number 3019, toomey amendment number 3062, broin of ohio amendment number 3133, as modified by changes at the desk, rubio amendment number 3175, as modified by changes at the desk, carper amendment number 3241, carper amendment number 3242, toomey amendment number 3277, as modified by changes at the desk, and the moran are amendment number 3285, as modified by changes at the desk, bennet amendment number 3226 as modified by changes at the desk, the hatch amendment number 3117, as modified by changes di at the desk. mr. mccain: these amendments are all cleared on this side. mr. levin: now i ask unanimous consent also that the senate
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consider these amendments en bloc, amendments be agreed to and the motion to reconsider be laid upon table. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. levin: thank the presiding officer. and i thank all of our colleagues who have cooperated to get us to this point. we will be propounding a unanimous consent agreement, i believe -- i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mr. levin: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: madam president, i ask further proceedings under the quorum call be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. levin: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the only additional first-degree amendment remaining in order to the bill be the following: mccain amendment 3262 on syria as modified with changes at the desk, that there then be 20 minutes equally divided in the usual form on the amendment, that any remaining time prior to 4:30 be equally divided between the chairman and ranking member for general debate on the bill, and that at 4:30 all postcloture time be considered expired, the senate proceed to a vote -- to votes in relation to the mccain amendment as modified, that no amendments be in order to the amendment prior to the vote, that upon disposition of the mccain amendment the senate agree to the pending kyl amendment, which is a kyl-kerry
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amendment, 3123 as modified. that upon disposition of the kyl amendment the senate proceed to a vote on passage of s. 3252 -- i'm sorry -- 3254 as amended. that upon passage of 3254 the armed services committee be discharged from further consideration of h.r. 4310 and the senate proceed to its consideration, that all after the enacting clause be stricken and the text of s. 3254 as amended and passed by the senate be inserted in lieu thereof, that h.r. 4310 as amended be read a third time, passed and the motion to reconsider be laid on the table, that the senate insist on its amendment, request a conference with the house on the disagreeing votes of the two houses, and that the chair be authorized to appoint conferees on the part of the senate with the armed services committee appointed as conferees and no
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points of order be considered waived by virtue of this agreement, and all with no intervening action or debate. and finally, that the bill be printed as passed by the senate. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered. mr. levin: i th -- i thank all of our colleagues. now i believe the mccain amendment is going to be called up immediately.
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the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that i be added as a cosponsor amendment of the -- cosponsor of the mccain amendment and that senator coons also be added as a
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cosponsor of the mccain amendment. the presiding officer: without objection.
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the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i ask unanimous
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consent that further proceedings on the quorum call be suspended and i call up amendment numbered 3262. the presiding officer: the clerk will report the amendment. the clerk: the senator from arizona, mr. mccain -- mr. mccain: i ask that the reading be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: as modified. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: the senator from kentucky i believe is here to speak on the amendment. mr. paul: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from kentucky. mr. paul: the amendment before us requires that the president submit a plan for a no-fly zone over syria. i want to compliment the authors for including in this amendment a clause that says that nothing in this amendment is to be construed as a declaration of war or a use of authorization of force. i think that's very important. i think it's very important in
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our nation today that we are not saying that we are starting or beginning or getting involved in a new war. i do think, however, though, that this amendment is ill-advised for two reasons -- number one, i don't think i know with certainty whether the syrian rebels will be freedom loving, tolerant, constitution toting believers in a republican form of government or whether they will institute an islamic republic that will have no tolerance for christians and no tolerance for people of any other faith. it still remains to be seen whether the secular government will be -- whether a secular government will be established in libya, tunisia or egypt. there is the question is al qaeda more or less of a threat in libya today since the rebels have won the civil war? i don't think we know for certain what a rebel government in syria will do with the one million christians who live in syria. since the iraq war, hundreds of
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thousands of christians have fled iraq and gone to syria. apparently, syria was seen as more of a tolerant nation than iraq, even after the war. so will a rebel islamic government in syria tolerate or persecute christians? will a rebel islamic government institute the death penalty for blasphemy, the death penalty for conversion, the death penalty for apostasy? will we have true democracy? will we have a secular government or will we have a syrian rebel government that is less tolerant than what we currently have? in many ways, the arab spring has become the arab winter. in egypt, we have a leader of egypt from the muslim brotherhood. he was seen recently to recite amen as a radical cleric stood up and said death to israel, as a radical cleric stood up and
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said death to israel and anyone who supports them, the muslim brotherhood leader of egypt that came out of the arab spring is nodding his head in assent and seemed to be chanting amen. will the syrian rebels seek peace with israel or war? will the syrian rebels seek a secular government or one ruled by sharia? i think there are many unknowns that we need to be asking ourselves before we involve ourselves in a civil war. secondly, i think it's a bad idea to discuss contingency plans for war. while i'm in favor of the senate retaining our prerogative to declare war, i believe that the details of the execution of war are in the per view of the executive -- purview of the executive. in other words, we do have the power to begin or not begin a war. that is the power the constitution gave us. but i don't think the constitution intended to have 535 generals. i don't think it intended to
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have us explicitly talking about every contingency plan for every possible war in every corner of the globe. our defense department no doubt has contingency plans for a ballistic missile attack on the united states, for a conventional land invasion, for naval or air encounters throughout the world, but we don't necessarily openly discuss them or encourage them. i don't think it's best to openly discuss these plans for defending against attack and especially not for involving ourselves in a civil war. our nation and our soldiers are weary of war. our nation yearns for leaders who will strive to keep us out of war. our nation yearns for leaders who are reluctant to begin a new war or get involved in a new war. i hope my colleagues today will not encourage a rush to war or publicly clamoring for a plan to become involved in syria's civil
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war. thank you, madam president. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from delaware. mr. coons: i rise today to speak in favor of the amendment numbered 3262 which i am honored to cosponsor with senator mccain and senator levin. i want to first start by thanking them for their discipline, diligent and very strong leadership of this year's ndaa process. this is an authorization bill taken up and considered by this senate for 52 years, and despite a lot of challenges here, a lot of difficulties we have getting to bills, getting past objections, getting to reasonable processes and amendments, these two fine gentlemen have led admirably in a very difficult environment. this amendment does what i think we need to do next, to put before the senate in an appropriate classified setting useful information about the possibilities before us and before our allies in a very difficult, very complex region
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that is, as senator paul has noted, currently undergoing dramatic conflict. let me speak to a few points that persuaded me to join senator mccain and senator levin in cosponsoring this amendment. first despite the comments from my colleague from kentucky, these plans will be delivered to the senate in classified form. they will not be accessible to the general public. they will not be broadcast to our opponents or those who might seek to learn about america's plans. they will only be delivered in classified form. second, and i think most importantly, it is explicit in this amendment that nothing in this section shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization for the use of force. senator paul's offer brings up concerns that we are rushing headlong into overengagement in a civil war best left to the people of syria is reflected clearly and in plain language in that provision within this
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amendment. earlier today, madam president, we took up and voted on the convention on the rights of persons with disabilities, and i spoke to this issue there as well. despite the plain language of that convention that would prevent it from having any of the noxious impacts on families in the united states, despite the plain language of that convention and the various restrictions and reservations that were added to it, it would have no impact on home schooling, no impact on reproductive rights in the united states, no impact on any of the variety of things that were cast about on the floor of the senate today. so, too, here we should not allow despite this plain language senators to mislead our colleagues into thinking that somehow secretly embedded within this is an authorization for the use of force. so what is this? this is asking that the united states in consultation between the department of defense and this senate make reasonable assessments of what our path
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forward in dealing with the tragic situation in syria might be. this amendment is clear that it will not consider ground troops being deployed onto syrian territory, that it will only look at means that might be used by the united states or allies to stop assad's reckless, relentless criminal use of air power to murder his own civilians, his own citizens. i have been heartbroken, madam president, as i have read account after account of jets and helicopters being used to stray red lines, being used to bomb hospitals, being used to bomb schools and of the thousands of innocents who have died. the syrian civil war is a very complex conflict. and senator paul asked what i think really is the central question. he said how can we be confident that the opposition will be tolerant, inclusive, peaceful, that it won't prosecute or persecute christians, that it
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will be an ally to israel and not impose the sorts of threats and difficulties that he cited from libya, from egypt and other countries? that is exactly the core question at issue for us going forward. should the united states stand on the sidelines, as al-assad massacres tens of thousands of more of his civilians or should we consider what ways we can be involved through ways of providing humanitarian assistance, through supporting our regional allies of turkey and jordan, through multilateral engagement, for defensive materiel or through proactively engaging to better learn and better understand what the opposition on the ground is inclined to do and to set clear standards for how if they demonstrate they are reliable partners in pursuing peace, if they commit themselves, the elements of the national coalition and the free syrian army, if they clearly commit themselves to being of exactly the sort senator paul would hope, tolerant, inclusive, pro
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democracy, why would we stand on the sidelines of history and allow islamic extremists to instead write the future of the syrian people? for these and many other reasons, madam president, i am grateful for the opportunity to join with senator mccain and senator levin in cosponsoring this amendment. i yield the floor. mr. mccain: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i would ask unanimous consent that the senator from connecticut be allowed four minutes, the senator from michigan allowed three minutes and i be allowed two minutes before the vote. the presiding officer: without objection. the senator from connecticut. mr. lieberman: i thank the chair and i thank my friend from arizona. i'm honored to rise to support his amendment and just to make a few points. the first is to assure all of our colleagues that this is just an amendment that asks the pentagon to conduct a study. it's nothing more than that. and i want to particularly say that to reassure anyone who is
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concerned that somehow this is an authorization for the use of military force. look at the wording here. that's just not the case. all we're debating here is whether -- and voting on is whether the pentagon should be asked to do a study of the possibility of how we might stop bashar al-assad's air force of committing acts of murder against his own people. in my way of thinking today, the truth -- two things. one is this amendment is simply a way of saying that we in the senate are concerned, care about the slaughter that's going on in syria and agitated that the united states and the rest of the world is not doing more to come to the assistance of those who are fighting for their freedom and lives in syria. i want to point out there are a lot of options for the pentagon to study here. one is a traditional no-fly zone
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but we know a lot of people in the pentagon are concerned to carry out a traditional no-fly zone with our aircraft you need to spend a lot of time and energy and assume risk to knock out the syrian air defenses. well enough, but there are other ways to achieve the goal of keeping assad's aircraft from destroying syria's people. one is to use patriot antimissile batteries to keep syrian planes placed in turkey and jordan to keep syrian planes out of the air, and the second, of course, that i can think of is to fire precision guided missiles from off shore to hit the syrian air force on the ground so it can't take off. all of those should be considered as a result as part of this study, as the most obvious, which is to make sure that the freedom firefighters on
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the ground have their own antiaircraft weapons to fire from the ground at assad's aircraft so that they can protect their own lives. madam president, the truth is in supporting this amendment i come to say that i continue to be troubled deeply by why the u.s. and so much of the rest of the civilized world is standing by and letting this happen. to me, and i speak only personally and i do so with respect, getting involved in this on behalf of the opposition in syria has been now for 18 months as close to a no-brainer as america ever has the opportunity to get involved in, in foreign policy. and i say that because from the beginning we knew which side was fighting for freedom and which side was against it and america is supposed to be on the side of the freedom firefighters. second -- fighters. secondly, this has developed into a humanitarian disaster.
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40,000 people killed, and third, we have not just humanitarian interest here and values interest, we have strategic interest because assad's government is the number-one friend of our number-one enemy in the world, which is the islamic republic of iran. if he goes down, iran and its radical regime suffers a body blow. if we continue to stand back, we run the risk of terrible sectarian conflict in syria which runs the risk of spreading on, between sunni and shia, also between secular and religious, modernizers, and people who don't want to modernize. we have every good reason to come to the aid of these people in need, and i just don't see an argument for not at least studying how we might better do that. i thank my colleagues, i'm proud to support the amendment and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from mississippi.
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mr. wicker: i wonder if i might proceed for one minute before we begin the vote. mr. mccain: i ask the senator from mississippi be granted one minute. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. wicker: i thank my colleagues for allowing me to breeze in here at the last moment. i just want to thank the chair and the ranking member and the members of the committee for an amendment which was adopted at the committee with regard to green building standards. as we've learned, madam president, there is more than one way to have green building standards. the defense department has tilted toward the lead standard in the past. i think we have authorized now a scientific analysis of other methods that is proceeding apace. i had offered yet another amendment which is to be
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withdrawn directing that the department of defense utilize green building standards that are driven by consensus as determined by the american national standards institute. as i say, i am withdrawing that amendment. i do appreciate the language that is in the bill now and i think we will end up with green building standards that save energy and serve the purposes of national defense and don't tilt toward one industry over the other. so i thank you for the indulgence. i thank my colleagues on the committee, and i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the senator from michigan. mr. levin: madam president, i very much support the amendment of senator mccain and thank him for it. the suffering of the syrian people and increasingly the people of the region continues to grow daily. this amendment tells the secretary of defense and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff that we want a classified
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assessment of the effectiveness of various military solutions to the problems that are there in syria and in the region. now, this information, madam president, is going to help inform congress on the challenges and the obstacles to various solutions, including the very challenges and questions which were identified by senator paul. those are the kind of questions and not the total list, but the kind of questions which this assessment will help us to address. it will also help inform us about the budget and the policy decisions that the congressional defense committees make in the upcoming fiscal year. the principal purpose of this amendment as is stated in the amendment is -- quote -- "to advance the goals of president obama of stopping the killing of civilians in syria and creating
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conditions for a transition to a democratic, pluralistic political system in syria." that is what is on the minds i believe of all of us, this report and assessment, to use the word in the amendment is critically important to congress and i very much support the effort of senator mccain and thank him for it. the presiding officer: the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i would point out again that section 5-e of this amendment says no authorization for use of military force, nothing in this section shall be construed as a declaration of war or an authorization for the use of force, and it will be in classified form. madam president, yesterday -- this is the front page, the headline of "the washington post." obama sternly warns syria. there's no doubt that as this conflict has dragged on and on,
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the risk of a wider conflict and terrible consequences can ensue. it's well know that bashar assad has a very large inventory of chemical weapons including sarin gas which is a deadly nerve agent. i'm not predicting the united states has to be involved but it is very little doubt in anyone's mind that as this conflict escalates the risk of spreading, the risk of greater jihadist involvement, the greater risk of problems in the borders of lebanon, of iraq, of jordan increase. and if military action has to be taken in order, for example, to prevent sarin gas to be used, the congress of the united states has to be involved. we have a thing called the war
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powers act and the war powers act expressly calls that congress make decisions. the congress needs to be informed, and i believe that all of this -- this amendment does is it informs in a classified manner the defense committees so that we will have the information necessary to understand the various viewnlities -- ventualities that could result in this escalating and deteriorating situation in syria. as my friend from connecticut said, 40,000 people have already been slaughtered and i think that the united states congress needs to be made aware not of what we should do, but what we can do in the case of that aventuality. i urge my colleagues to vote for the amendment. i thank my colleagues, the senator from connecticut and the senator from delaware and of
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course the chairman of the committee. i yield the floor. the presiding officer: under the previous order, all postcloture time is expired and the question occurs on the mccain amendment number 3262 as modified. mr. levin: madam president? i ask unanimous consent a colonel fi qi between myself and senator bennet of colorado be inserted in the record at this point. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. levin: i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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